PHOTO CREDIT: Timothy Ornelas

Rudy Ortega Jr., Tribal president for Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, singing traditional birdsongs.

Banks and federal institutions were closed on Monday, Oct. 10, for Christopher Columbus Day. 

But a growing number of U.S. cities and states have moved to downplay Columbus Day — a federal holiday — in favor of the rebranded Indigenous People’s Day, which began as a counter-celebration to Columbus Day.

No surprise, Columbus Day was never a holiday for Native American Indians.

“We don’t celebrate 500 years of being dominated, exploited, enslaved and nearly exterminated by Europeans. But we do celebrate our survival,” said Diana King, an enrolled member of the White Earth Indian Nation.

Last year at the urging of a local tribe, the City of San Fernando became the first city in Los Angeles County to change the second Monday in October from Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. San Fernando is home to the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians.

Now this year, going beyond the name change with the support of the city, the local tribe with Pukúu Cultural Community, will host its first “Indigenous People’s Day Celebration Festival” on Saturday, Oct. 15.

Organizers hope it will become an annual event.

A large lineup of native speakers, performers and musicians will fill two stages at San Fernando Recreational Park. On the main stage there will be both traditional and contemporary indigenous performances including comedy, spoken word, the Cahuilla Birdsingers, Rincon Storytellers, drummers, Aztec Dancers, Maya Singers and Dancers, and Native American hip-hop performances.

The shaded second stage is designed to have interaction with traditional storytelling by local indigenous elders and native storytellers.

There will be art workshops. Artisans will sell jewelry and other cultural art. There will be different foods enjoyed by peoples across the Americas, as well as family-oriented activities, including Native art workshops, interactive stations, and traditional California Indian games.

“We hope that this festival will bring more visibility to Indigenous peoples, their relationships to the land, and their hardships and achievements,” says Rudy Ortega Jr., Fernandeño Tataviam Tribal President and executive director of Pukúu.

 Ortega points out the festival will be held in the city of the ancient homelands of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians. The park where the festival will be held is on the historic village site of Paséknga.

Members of the Fernandeño Tataviam local tribe are supporting the efforts of  the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe  against the Dakota Access Pipeline after a federal court rejected its request to halt construction on the project, which the Sioux’s maintain would destroy some of its sacred sites, and would threaten their water supply and environment.

A member of the Fernandeño Tribe also walked to each California mission in protest of the canonization of Junipero Serra. 

“We shouldn’t be regarded as just relics in museums,” Ortega often tells children when he speaks at area schools. “This is about who we are today, living and breathing, working to keep our traditions and culture. We are still a surviving people since Europeans arrived on our shores.”

The Indigenous People’s Day Celebration Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m at San Fernando Recreation Park, located 208 Park Park Avenue in San Fernando. For more information, visit www.pukuu.org

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